June 18, 2008
The Nova Notebook, by Villanova director of media relations Mike Sheridan, appears weekly during the fall and into the basketball season and periodically from May through August. In this entry we spend time with junior to be Casiem Drummond.
There was a time, not long ago, when the specter of a pool workout or stint on the underwater treadmill at the Davis Center was viewed with a measure of dread by Villanova center Casiem Drummond. It was among the more distasteful elements of an arduous rehabilitation from a broken right ankle suffered during Villanova's second round NCAA Tournament victory over Siena in late March.
Now, though, the former Bloomfield Tech standout has made his peace with all things aquatic.
"I don't mind it as much as I used to," says Drummond. "I guess you could say I've gotten used to it."
That he has done so is hardly surprising given the time spent submerged. For the better part of seven months Drummond has been trying to help his body heal, especially his right leg. He missed substantial time during the regular season with a stress fracture in his ankle, battling to return to the floor in February. Then came the more dramatic injury - a fracture in the same ankle, unrelated to the earlier setbacks. The broken ankle prevented him from accompanying his teammates to Detroit for the NCAA Sweet 16 contest against Kansas and resulted in surgery that same week so that a screw could be inserted into the bone to expedite the healing process.
Since then, Drummond has spent countless hours with strength and conditioning coach Lon Record, working to maintain his stamina and conditioning while not taxing the ankle.
"I'm fine," he states. "I'm just anxious to get back to playing basketball. It's been a long time."
In a very real sense, the 6-10 native of East Orange, N.J., is very much the youngster with his nose pressed to the window while his teammates participate in pickup and summer league games. His regimen is restricted to lifting weights and working in the pool at this juncture. The hope is that by the time the fall semester is underway, he will be given clearance to resume playing the game he loves and has been separated from much of these last seven months.
"They're saying September," Drummond says, "but the doctor has said that if everything goes right, it could be as early as August."
This is the longest stretch Drummond can recall where he has not been able to play the game. Rehab of this kind, particularly in the summer, can be drudgery. The campus is quiet and the release of playing with friends is not available. It's a grind that Jason Fraser and Curtis Sumpter came to know well in their Villanova careers.
"It's just hard," states Drummond. "Knowing you are coming in to workout but can't play basketball makes it tough. You watch your teammates play and you really want to be out there with them. All you can do is support them, though."
Those teammates do their best to buoy Drummond's spirits in this tough summer. They are constantly together and the needle is applied liberally. In their minds, he is as much a part in this period as he was when he was collecting 17 rebounds against North Carolina State in November.
"We don't talk about the injury a lot," he says. "But I know they are there for me and want me to be back out there with them."
Drummond can take solace in how he performed before injuries undercut his efforts in 2007-08. He re-shaped his body in the summer of 2007 and earned himself a spot in the starting lineup to open the campaign. In the early going, he was Villanova's leading rebounder and averaged 7 ppg. His absence in the grueling BIG EAST battles plainly affected Villanova, especially in the first half of conference regular season action.
He was forced to the sidelines after playing sparingly against Temple on Dec. 9 and made only one brief appearance between then and Jan. 30 at Pittsburgh. Those lost seven weeks of basketball robbed Drummond of the momentum and game conditioning that had helped him get off to the fast start. He made occasional contributions down the stretch but was never able to reassert himself. Finally, there came the fateful fracture in the first half of the contest in Tampa, Fla., against Siena.
"When if first happened, I thought someone had kicked me in the leg," he states. "I tried to run but I couldn't so I went to the bench."
It was soon revealed that he had fractured the ankle. Within a matter of days, he was at Bryn Mawr Hospital for surgery. That made it impractical for him to board an airplane so that he could be on the bench for the Sweet 16 contest against Kansas.
Fortunately, the surgery, performed by Dr. Rob Good, was successful. Drummond returned to campus immediately and began the task of navigating his 6-10, 280-pound frame to and fro with the use of crutches. When the day came where he could rid himself of those, he was more than a little pleased.
"The cast was one thing but those crutches were tough," he says.
He is two months removed from those painful days. Drummond walks today without a limp or cast. He looks much the same in mid-June as he did before the injury effectively idled him - clear evidence of his dedication to the process. Now, it's a matter of completing the journey to reach his ultimate goal.
"I'm just trying to get back to playing ball," he says. "Hopefully, I'll get cleared soon.
"From being injured, I learned a lot off the court. There are little things I picked up by watching practice when I was out that you don't think about twice when you are playing. You see how it looks from the outside so I think I have a better idea of what to do and not to do now."
Even as Villanova advanced in March, those close to the team understood what a healthy Drummond means to the Wildcats.
"Cas' started off great before he was hampered by the injuries," says head coach Jay Wright of the 6-10 junior who averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21 games. "It was a difficult year because he was on the verge of really breaking through and becoming a force. This year he has another opportunity and I think he could be a difference-maker for our team. He can be one of the best rebounders in the conference if he does it consistently."
So can Drummond rise from underwater to the top of the carom charts?
At this point, after a tough seven months, he'd be happy just for the chance to take a healthy crack at it.